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COVID-19 And Your Business: Ready For Remote Work?

Preparing for the impact of the coronavirus

Take precautions to protect your people and make plans to enable remote working.

This scanning electron microscope image shows the new coronavirus (orange) among human cells (blue, pink and purple). Colour has been added to the scan to better show the virus and its environment. Photo: Courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

With seven confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Africa, there’s rising concern about the business impact of a health crisis we may not be fully prepared to deal with. There’s an abundance of information – and misinformation – on the web and social media, and some of the news headlines are downright scary. And while we hope our leaders can work together to address the particular challenges of COVID-19, it’s prudent to prepare for a business scenario where remote work is necessary.

If you’ve been watching the news, then you know that several corporate giants have already shuttered their offices. Some companies are encouraging remote work – and others are actually insisting upon it. Much-anticipated gatherings like SXSWFacebook’s F8, and the Google I/O Conference have been cancelled. And other technology conferences – including the Microsoft MVP Global Summit, the Adobe Summit, and IBM Think – have been converted to online-only events.

Today, whether by choice or necessity, you’re likely exploring ways to keep your teams connected and productive, wherever they are. Now is the time to capitalise on the assets you already have, and to consider those you may need in the future.

Resources to empower remote workers

WINDOWS 10 | Microsoft’s operating system for PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and IoT devices provides antivirus, firewall, and ransomware protections, plus the universal apps that enable everyday efficiency.

OFFICE 365 | Microsoft’s productivity suite puts popular tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype, and cloud-based email within easy reach, so that collaboration can continue no matter the circumstances.

SHAREPOINT ONLINE | Microsoft’s centralised, secure space for file-sharing harnesses the power of the cloud to make it easier for every team member to store, share, and manage digital information – on any device, from any location.

TEAMS | Microsoft’s hub for teamwork in Office 365 allows seamless, real-time communication between individuals and groups through chats, calls, online meetings, and video conferences.

Microsoft has already responded to the increased need for people to work from home. They’re offering a six-month Office 365 E1 trial to eligible customers. The free version of Teams is already open to everyone. Other technology companies have also made resources available to foster collaboration and communication during remote-working periods.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. They take their name from the Latin word “corona”, which means “crown”, and it’s easy to see why when you examine these viruses under magnification: barbs extend from the surface just like the pointed spikes on an ornate crown.

In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The coronavirus dominating the headlines now is a new type of coronavirus. First reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the virus was initially called the “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. Since then, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced formal designations for 2019-nCoV and the disease it causes.

The virus is officially named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, abbreviated as SARS-CoV-2. According to the ICTV, this name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003.

The disease is officially named Coronavirus Disease, abbreviated as COVID-19. The CO refers to corona; the VI refers to virus; and the D refers to disease. The -19 refers to the year (2019) in which the first confirmed case of the disease was reported.

Several organisations (including the WHO) have chosen not to use the official name of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) in their content collateral. “From a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia, which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003,” said the WHO in a statement, explaining its decision to refer to SARS-CoV-2 simply as “the virus responsible for COVID-19”.

At the time of publication, there were seven confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in South Africa: six in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng. All seven patients had recently visited Italy as part of the same tour group, according to a news report.

South Africans in other parts of the world have also been affected. A 39-year-old SA teacher working in Daegu, South Korea, was quarantined after testing positive for the virus. Two South African crew members working aboard a Japanese cruise ship were treated in hospital after contracting the virus. And more than 180 SA citizens are waiting to be repatriated from China’s coronavirus-hit Wuhan region.

Learn more about the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 and stay up to date with global developments by checking out these resources:

The World Health Organization coronavirus channel is updated daily with the latest guidance from international health experts.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published detailed answers to the most common questions about COVID-19.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering has an online dashboard that uses real-time data to track the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center provides ongoing analysis of the impact of COVID-19.

Certain South African hospitals have been designated as emergency centres for the isolation and treatment of local coronavirus patients. Here’s the current list.

Thankfully, much of the world hasn’t seen any COVID-19 cases or outbreaks. However, with health officials encouraging an abundance of caution and numerous international travel advisories in place, it’s clear that preparation is our best defence.

Here at BUI, we’re putting plans in place to help our customers find solutions that work for them during this period of uncertainty.

So is your company remote ready? Another resource you might try out is Toptal’s Remote Work Readiness Assessment. Find out how remote ready your organization is with their 3-5 minute assessment.

BUI is an official Microsoft Partner in South Africa, and an award-winning leader in identity and security solutions.